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Time to Treat Russia as a Partner

Published: September 23, 2008 (Issue # 1410)




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Before heading to Moscow to participate in the recent Valdai Discussion Club, I had the sense that the United States was on the verge of a new era of confrontation with Moscow that could prove far more dangerous and unstable than the previous Cold War. Alliances are more rickety and as the war last month in Georgia proves, communication is not always clear, with tragic results.

Suffice to say that the Valdai meetings did little to alleviate my concerns. The Russian presenters, with the exception of opposition figure Garry Kasparov, were all singing from the same song sheet: We dont want a new era of confrontation, but the choice is yours the United States.

And from the U.S. side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a powerful speech on Sept. 18, concluding, The decision is Russias and Russias alone. Obviously both Moscow and Washington have choices, but I have little confidence U.S. leaders will make the right ones that will enhance the security of the United States and Europe, let alone Russia. What Washington needs right now is not megaphone diplomacy with Moscow, but real diplomacy.

While the United States may deplore the Kremlins decision to invade Georgia and certainly its decision to rapidly and unilaterally recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia was wrong the consensus among Russian politicians and most people is that the Kremlin was right and justified. Although government propaganda on television is partially responsible for this national consensus, it also reflects the countrys catharsis after more than 15 years of perceived relentless geopolitical expansion of the West at Moscows expense.

President Dmitry Medvedev told us that when he spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush on the phone during the hostilities with Georgia, Bush asked him, What do you need this for? Medvedev responded, George, I had no choice, and if you were in my shoes you would have done exactly the same, only more brutally. Medvedev went on to say that if Washington chooses to expand ties with Georgia and arm it, Washington does so at its own risk.

When Medvedev said at Valdai, We will not tolerate any more humiliation, and we are not joking, I believed him. Russian history tells us that we should not underestimate the willingness of Moscow to spill blood to defend the countrys interests as it sees fit. At this moment, the United States needs to focus on that prospect rather than spend so much energy defending past policy.

The Kremlin perceives the Balkan war, NATO expansion, Kosovo independence and missile-defense deployment in Central Europe as having one thing in common the U.S. drive to flaunt its interests and ultimately contain if not weaken Russias geopolitical position. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, Washingtons strategy was to tell Moscow that these pro-U.S. measures were in Russias interests. The Bush administration has harped on Russias supposed obsession with zero-sum thinking, but the net result was the same the United States did what it wanted, and it did not take Russian interests seriously.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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